Most people dread the infamous “friend zone.” It usually means that the object of your desire is “just not that into you.” But what if finding yourself in the friend zone could work in your favor — as a strategy to winning that person’s heart? Would you do it? (Leave a comment below)
In this compelling compilation of ‘friends-to-lovers’ stories, Because My Heart Said So delves into these complicated but passionate relationships. I met with the authors to talk about their upcoming release and learn a little more about the collaboration. But first, I had to ask them the above compelling question: Would you use the friend-zone as a strategy to win the heart of your object of affection?
NIA: Oh, most definitely. I actually only marginally believe in the friend zone for men. Women have a friend zone—men whom we know we could NEVER have more with. Men, I think are mostly different. They have generally little or no time for women to whom they are not at least somewhat attracted. So while I wouldn’t manipulate my way out of the friend zone with someone I’m attracted to, I would certainly not consider being put in that zone a complete barrier to later being more. I would just keep my eyes peeled for the opportunity (like getting him drunk one night or something — KIDDING!!) and in the meantime, occupy myself otherwise with whomever. And the other thing is, building a strong friendship first could only work to the benefit of a later romantic relationship if it were to happen, so it would be all good.
JACINTA: I would probably do it. I’m pretty much with Nia. I just don’t whole-heartedly believe in the friend zone for men. I think when a man befriends a woman, 99 percent of the time, he’s at least a little attracted to her on some level. Now, various circumstances, legit or perceived, may keep him from acting on that attraction but I think it’s usually always there on some level. So if for whatever reason, I’ve been “friend-zoned” by a dude I’m into–and we’re genuinely friends–I’d probably work on convincing him why it’s okay to proceed, or why it’s in his best interest, lol. Now, all of that being said…I have been in situations where the friend-zone was crossed and it turned out the dude wasn’t that into me in that way. Like, he was attracted enough to take it there but in the end, it just didn’t happen in a real way. But that situation was also with a dude who I was cool/associate friends with. Not friends-friends with. So I guess it depends on the level of friendship too.
LILY: I certainly have and I might in the future but it wouldn’t be a knee jerk decision. Despite the tough girl vibe I try desperately to maintain I am a total sugar puff when it comes to romance. I love LOVE and can be quite hopeless at rational behavior if someone sweeps me off my feet. “Just not that into me?” How is that even possible? If we’re friends he knows I have a little somethin’-somethin’. Having said all that there is however quite a bit of lead in my shoes so this guy would have to be off the charts worth the hassle of the unmitigated suppression of my damn ego.Yeah he’d have to be a mixture of Idris Elba, Bill Gates, and Peter Pan at least.
RAE: He’d have to be pretty special for me to set myself up for possible disappointment that way. I can see why one might use her position in the “friend zone” as a strategy but, if I really sensed that the object of my desire was “just not that into me” then nope. I wouldn’t. Before I even consider trying something like that, he’d really have to show me up front in some obvious way that all that strategizing wouldn’t be a complete waste of my time. Plus, it sounds like too much work to get him to switch up for me…okay, so maybe I wouldn’t do it. I know. Terrible answer, right? lol Sorry…that’s all I got.
MICHELE: They say too many cooks spoil the gumbo. Writing books is usually a solitary endeavor. Why did you choose to do a collaboration?
NIA: Writing is like running a marathon, I think. You can only ever compete against your own personal best, but running alongside other athletes is what helps you improve your personal best. You can’t help but want to run a race that is worthy of those running alongside you. I love the work of the three other writers in this book, and so writing with them makes me want to be better. And it was fun (and at times downright funny) to realize that the same things I agonize about, other writers agonize about them as well.
JACINTA: I just thought it would be dope to do a collection. Readers may dig each of our writing styles for various reasons and so it offers them a chance to see how all of our individual styles play out under one banner theme. Also, to be real, it allows us all to introduce our work to one another’s readership. Our writing styles are very different but I think we all have an element of realness and heart in our writing/storytelling that threads us together in a cool way.
LILY: I’m a firm believer in that old adage about gumbo even though I’ve never made any. However, I have also learned the hard way that sometimes the very best endeavors come from collaboration, especially when very different people engage and help each other towards a goal. It doesn’t always work but when it does? Honestly it can be such a heavenly thing.
RAE: I joined the collaboration to grow as a writer. To push myself and be better. So the opportunity to work with and learn from Nia, Jacinta and Lily was a no-brainer for me. We’re different in many ways but, at the core, we’re in alignment and that was such a great feeling because writing really is a solitary endeavor. So when you can connect with others who genuinely share your passion and really “get” you? Sweet.
MICHELE: How did you choose which authors would contribute? Or was this a pre-existing relationship?
NIA: Lily and Jacinta can back me up on this. But I think it started as an idle conversation in a Facebook group. One of those ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if …?’ conversations. I can have those kinds of conversations all day long and nothing will come of it, but Lily is action-oriented, so she furthered it into action and here we are.
JACINTA: Yes, I think it did start as a FB group convo, where one of us randomly said it’d be cool to do a friends-to-lovers collaboration. I think it actually came into fruition because Nia was talking about doing a wine and writers event in Atlanta, so Lily and I were helping out with that and it sprang to life from there. We were planning to ask Rae to participate in that event and once the idea for this book was solidly in existence, we knew she’d be a good addition to this as well.
LILY: Nia and I’ve been writer buds for a while. When I started out, she used to admin a writer’s group. She was very encouraging as I tried to figure out how to become an indie author (or even if I should). I read Jacinta’s first book, was blown away by it and she’s so damn cool in general that it was an easy friendship. The three of us were planning a writer/reader event in ATL. Nia had the great idea to collaborate on something new that we could have ready for readers who attended the event. In the end the event got postponed but the collaboration continued. We all wanted a fourth person to join in and we all had recently been rocked by how good Rae Lamar’s Aris Series was. We asked her to join and lucky for us she said yes.
RAE: Yes, I was a latecomer to the collaboration. And, lucky for me, I was on their radar as someone they wanted to work with. I’ll admit that I had some anxiety coming into this because I could tell that they were already friends. Plus, I’d never collaborated on a project before so I had no clue how to deal. But that was just me overthinking everything as I tend to do. Nia, Jacinta and Lily were so open and cool; it was fun from the start. Yes, it was a lot of hard work to pull this off so quickly, but this connection we’ve formed along the way is genuine and I’m grateful to call them my writer buds now.
MICHELE: Is this a collaboration on one story or a collection of stories?
ALL: A collection of four stories with a friends-to-lovers theme that ties them all together.
MICHELE: How did you decide on the theme?
NIA: I think it was the topic of the day in the group we were in. So it wasn’t any one person’s spark of genius. And Jacinta and Rae are like, in my view at least, the queens of friends-to-lovers stories. They do it better than I’ve ever seen it done, so having them as part of this was an obvious and natural decision.
JACINTA: That’s funny you say that Nia, because I didn’t even realize that was the theme of a lot of my books– the Love Always series in particular. And calling Rae and I the queens of it, for me at least, is funny. Rae maybe—her Aris series in particular stands out. But the only thing I’m the queen of is absent-mindedness.
LILY: I don’t remember but I can tell you it wasn’t my idea for sure. Rae and Jacinta are the experts there. I tend to be all moody and serious about what I’ll write and don’t write to themes necessarily. The themes come out of the writing for me not the other way around. I was super lucky though because a story that had been flitting in and out of my head fit this theme perfectly so I considered it more manna from heaven and ran with it.
RAE: Y’all are killing me with this queen and expert stuff. That’s hilarious to me too, Jacinta. I feel like the rookie in every way most of the time. But to answer your question, Michele, the friends-to-lovers theme was already in place when I came on board. I thought it was a really cool idea and was excited to write to it.
MICHELE: When does it go on sale? What formats? Where? We want the deets!
MICHELE: I know most people ask for a sample/excerpt. Instead, I’d like a trailer (in words, of course). Give us a short snapshot of each of the stories. Take us for a ride.
NIA: Dang. Okay, here goes: In Acceptable Losses, Quentin is a guy who’s used to being perfect and so the failure of his marriage has him reeling–things didn’t go according to his perfect plan, so he’s struggling to come to terms with how and why that is. Lena is his best friend at work, and has known for a long time she’s in love with Quentin. She’s wandering aimlessly through her dating life, waiting for Quentin to see what’s right in front of him. But rather than notice, Quentin does the unthinkable–he fixes Lena up with his free-spirited younger brother. And once he does, the feelings he’s been in denial of begin to surface. So what do they do now? You gotta read the book to find out. 😉
JACINTA: Blind Expectations is about how expectations for relationships change once the veil of friendship has been lifted. Basically, do your expectations change once you become intimate with someone (and I don’t just mean physical intimacy). Leah and Trevor have to navigate that question as their relationship progresses, which gave me a lot of story to work with.
LILY: Blackbirds is a modern fairy tale about two people who see each other again after a harsh parting and many years apart. The story starts with Sydney and Elliott meeting up again. There are subtle differences in their character but not really if you know what I mean. Then the rest of the story tells us how they met, became friends, fell in love, and part. How does all that happen and how does it get resolved? Is love worth waiting for? Read the book and you’ll know. 😉
RAE: Blur is about that line between platonic and romantic. Jade and Kyle toe it pretty well until the invisible barrier fades, leaving them to wonder where they really stand with each other. It’s unthinkable given that they’ve known each other since they were kids, but they’re grown now and things have definitely changed. Naturally, they try to fight the inevitable because it’s just incredibly awkward for them…but it’s real. And when it’s real, you can’t walk away.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
#4Writers4Love presents: Because My Heart Said So: A Friends-To-Lovers Collection
Four Authors. Four Stories. For Love.
Acceptable Losses by Nia Forrester
Blind Expectations by Jacinta Howard
Blackbirds by Lily Java
Blur by Rae Lamar
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Nia Forrester is the author of the Commitment series. Nia lives and writes in Washington DC where, by day, she works on public policy and by night, she crafts women-centered fiction that examines the complexities of life, love and the human condition. .
Jacinta Howard is the author of women’s and new adult fiction. Since 2014, she’s released four novels, including the well-received Love Always Series. She also released the USA TODAY Must-Read Romance, Happiness in Jersey, as well as the emotional new adult novel, Finding Kennedy.
Lily Java is a freelance writer and novelist who writes women’s fiction in many genres. Her debut suspense novel, Sticky Moon, was released in 2014. When she isn’t writing, Lily raises money for the arts planning events in iconic landmarks throughout her beloved hometown: New York City. Lily is a true ambivert, who enjoys solitude as much as she likes meeting or talking with other passionate readers and writers.
Rae Lamar is a mild-mannered consultant by day and fiction writer by night who calls Atlanta home. She is the author of Dawn of Aris and The Aris Effect along with other works of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. On a perfect day, she can be found on the top floor of a swanky beach resort, sitting on the balcony of an ocean-front suite with a book in her hands and food at her fingertips. SN: She rarely has perfect days.